“Republicans are seeking to portray President Obama as the divider-in-chief, arguing the presidential candidate who trumpeted hope and change four years ago is now running an increasingly negative campaign.
Their chief argument is that Obama’s attacks on the wealthy are meant to incite class warfare and a heightened us-versus-them mentality never seen before in present-day politics.
But Republicans also point to Democrats’ “war on women” and the contraception mandate in Obama’s healthcare law, which they argue is an attack on religious freedom.
Even the lead-up to the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden over the last week was used by a sharp-elbowed Obama to divide the nation, Republicans say.”
Politically speaking, it’s a smart if cynical strategy. Millions of Americans are indeed worried about how divisive our debate and rhetoric have become, and how difficult it has become to reach compromise. They understand at a gut level that it’s an unhealthy state of affairs, and that if allowed to fester it could threaten the nation’s long-term security, prosperity and unity.
Among Republicans, the fact that the divisiveness is almost entirely their own creation doesn’t faze them in the least. Like a spouse abuser who blames his violence on his victim, the Republican Party hopes to blame the whole mess all on Obama.
The truth is, Obama infuriates the Republicans simply by waking up as president each morning. Under the rubric of “taking our country back,” they have challenged his status as an American, they have impugned his faith and they have even questioned his loyalty and patriotism. From the very beginning, they have pursued a conscious strategy of refusing to compromise in any way whatsoever, to the point that they have purged any in their own camp who dare to even suggest such a course. (See Lugar, Richard)
There is no better illustration of that dynamic than what happened with the health-care debate.
When he came into office, Obama abandoned the more liberal public-option approach to health insurance that he had campaigned upon in the ‘08 race. Instead, he embraced an approach that had been pioneered by a Republican governor in Massachusetts, that had been championed for almost a decade by a former Republican speaker of the House from Georgia and that had been created by the most important conservative think tank in Washington.
But what was his reward for seeking common ground? Instead of winning bipartisan support through his embrace of the health-care mandate, Obama found himself condemned as a socialist who was out to undermine the foundation of American society. And that pattern has held throughout the course of his presidency.
Even then, it took Obama a while to come to the realization that no matter what he did, there would be no compromise. The only thing that his opponents wanted from him was his surrender and then his disappearance. That was their price for “unity,” and now they want to blame him for refusing to pay it.
– Jay Bookman